Government to rewrite academy rules after staff member halts school conversion

The Government has been forced to stop the academy conversion of a school after opposition from a single staff member.

It will now rewrite government regulations to close the loophole that halted the process.

In March, The Department for Education (DfE) issued academy orders for three schools in Lewisham, following applications by the Leathersellers’ Federation which runs the schools.

But Schools Week can exclusively reveal that the order for one of the schools – Prendergast School – has been rescinded after a parent challenged its legality.

Regulations for federation schools applying to be academies state that a staff governor must vote in favour of conversion before it can go ahead.

One body oversees all three of the Lewisham schools and despite 12 out of the 14 governors voting for the conversion, the staff governor voted against.

Parents, who have campaigned alongside teachers and pupils against the plans, spotted the mistake and instructed lawyers to threaten the Government with a judicial review.

The DfE immediately pulled the order and is now working to change that part of the regulations, which it calls a “technicality”.

Christopher Barrow, chair of the governing body, told parents the DfE “carefully examined” the challenge and found their order was “likely to be found not compliant with the regulations in respect of academy orders”.

 It is disappointing that this issue has delayed the academy conversion of a school when the majority of the governing body voted in favour of the applications

Sheila Longstaff, DfE project lead for the academies south division, wrote in a letter to the federation’s governing body: “Given the doubts that have been raised I agree that the department should rescind the academy order for Prendergast School.

“It would appear our policy has progressed since the legislation was laid. I will inform the governing body about how they should proceed with this as soon as possible.”

She added: “It is disappointing that this issue has delayed the academy conversion of a school when the majority of the governing body voted in favour of the applications.”

One advisor to the process was schools commissioner Frank Green. He oversees the Government’s entire academies project.

Frank Green
Frank Green

A DfE spokesperson told Schools Week the “technicality” is now being resolved.  “Once this has been resolved the governors will be able to reapply for an academy order, and we fully expect them to do so.”

The federation wants to become a charitable multi-academy trust and the orders for the other two schools – Prendergast Vale and Prendergast Ladywell – still stand. They are both foundation schools and Prendergast School is voluntary aided.

In a letter to parents, the chair of governors Christopher Barrow said: “The multi-academy trust structure, with its main board and local schools board, would ensure greater accountability to the community and staff.”


Who is Frank Green and why does it matter that he is an advisor?


What “technical difficulties” really mean for this academy order…






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  1. Lori Winters

    There is HUGE community opposition to academy conversion of this federation of schools. The governors have not been able to address the concerns of parents and staff.

    In requiring support from all categoties of governors, the academy conversion guidelines–which were ignored–clearly recognise the importance of broad support from all sections of the school community to the success of a new arrangement–hardly a technicality! Who thinks teachers are unimportant to the success of schools?

    The leadership of the governors has shown contempt for the DfE and for the community by requesting an academy order despite not fulfilling the requirements. This is just one example showing they are not in good faith, and they have completely undermined community trust in what they propose.

    I am a parent of a year 10 child and wish I had access to a local school that lived its ethos.

  2. Miillie

    Agree- the government are closing the loop hole?? It was legislation that they wrote- ridiculous and yes hop this teacher is not bullied out but we all know this will not be the case, hence why I can respond to this in the day- bullying is rife in schools x

  3. Mark Watson

    Just read this article for the first time (don’t know why it popped up in the timeline).
    None of the schools actually became academies, and I wonder how the parents and local communities of Prendergast Vale and Prendergast Ladywell feel now.
    Since this article was written Prendergast Ladywell has remained as “Requires Improvement” and “Prendergast Vale” has slipped from “Good” to “Requires Improvement”.
    So the children have been failed by the schools, but at least they didn’t become academies because that’s the really important thing isn’t it …

    • 2023 Update:
      Since the previous comment was written, Prendergast Ladywell has moved from “Requires Improvement” to “Good” and Prendergast Ladywell has moved from “Requires Improvement” to “Good” (respectively 2018 and 2019 Ofsted inspections), without academy conversion.

      But now with the government loophole filled and most cohorts with memory of the last conversion attempt out of the way, again the governing body is pushing hard for academy conversion.